(From the Morning Herald.)

With lips all livid with cold,
And purple and swoll’n feet,
A woman in rags sat croach’d on the flags
Singing the Song of the Street;
“Starve! Starve! Starve!
O God, ‘tis a fearful night!
How the wind does blow, the sleet and the snow!
Will it ever again be light?
“I have rang at the ‘Refuge’ bell,
I have beat at the workhouse door,
To be told again that I clamour in vain,
They are ‘full;’ they ‘can hold no more.’
Starve! Starve! Starve!
Of the crowds that pass me by,
Some with pity, and some with pride,
But more with indifference turn aside,
And leave me here to die!
“O you that sleepin beds
With coverlet, quilt, and sheet,
Oh, think when it snows, what it is for those
That lie in the open street;
That lie in the open street,
On the cold and frozen stones,
When the winter’s blast, as it whistles past,
Bites into the very bones.
“Oh, what with the wind without,
And what with the cold within,
I own I have sought to drive away thought
With that curse of the tempted – Gin.
Drink! Drink! Drink!
Amid ribaldry, gas, and glare;
If there’s hell on earth,
‘Tis the ghastly mirth
That maddens at midnight there.
“O you that never have stray’d
Because you have not been tried,
Oh, look not down, with a pharisee’s frown,
On those that have swerv’d aside.
And you that hold the scales,
And you that glibly urge
That the ‘only plan’ is the prison van,
The treadmill, or the scourge –
“Oh, what are the lost to do?
To famish, and not to feel?
For days to go, and never to know
What it is to have one meal?
They cannot but, they dare not beg,
They must either starve or steal.
“Food – Food – Food!
If it be but a loaf of bread;
And a place to lie,
And a place to die,
If it be but a workhouse bed!
If you will not give to those that live,
You at least must bury the dead!”
With lips all livid and blue,
And purple and swoll’n feet,
A woman in rags sat crouch’d on the flags,
And sang the Song of the Street.
As she ceased the doleful strain
My homeward path I trod;
And the cry and the prayer
Of that lost one there,
Went up to the throne of God.
W. H. R.

Title:The Song of the Street (From the Morning Herald)

Author:W. H. Bellamy

Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:March 4th 1865

Keywords:hunger, poverty, temperance


Striking a familiar tone between sympathy and moralising, this poem by W. H. Bellamy is an example of a republished metropolitan poem which would have had particular relevance in the Lancashire region during the Cotton Famine. In poems whose function was to engage sympathy and encourage charity the subjects were often female, and this poem touches on the problem of alcohol abuse amongst the poor – gin being plentiful and relatively cheap. – SR